If you’ve been around churches long enough, you’ll have heard two very big theological words: justification and sanctification. The difference between these two is massive and if we get them confused we not only are misinformed, we’re in grave danger. So lets define them:
Justification is God’s declaring you to be what you’re not, righteous.
Sanctification is the process by which God makes you into what you’ve been declared, righteous.
Justification happens in an instant, when you place your faith and trust in Jesus for salvation. It is at this moment that a great exchange happens, God removes your sin and gives you the righteousness of Jesus (2 Cor. 5:21). Sanctification, rather than an instantaneous event, is a process. This process will take your whole life, and will be completed when you meet Jesus face to face after death or at His second coming. Because this is a process, we must be patient with Christians around us. Why? Because they are imperfect people in process. They are not perfect, and we should never demand perfection from them.
There is grave danger in getting these two terms mixed up or backwards. If we trust in our sanctification for our justification (or if we trust in our own works of righteousness for our salvation) we have no salvation. But if we understand that we’ve been declared righteous (something we are not) and then God grows us in that righteousness over time, we’ll be okay and your soul will be settled in life, because we screw up a lot. And we all need to hear this because we screw up far more than we could ever imagine. But praise God that our salvation is not based on what we do (Romans 4:4-5), but on what God has done for us. Yes we do “works” of righteousness, and strive to be closer to God through our Christian disciplines, but amen (!) that our salvation doesn’t rest on these disciplines.
This is indeed a soul settling truth.